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I Recycled My Mattress

Sleep. It should be the easiest thing in the world to accomplish. Lie down. Close eyes. Wake when refreshed. Except sometimes it’s not. Forget illnesses, nightmares and insomnia. Sometimes, it’s that your mattress is old and messing with your back. At least that’s what happened here.

Until last week we had an old memory foam mattress that was expensive and comfortable when we bought it. Ten years later, however, the foam that used to snap back when I got out of bed just stayed dented. Besides, we bought the bed before we realized that mattresses are often a swampy mess of chemicals and off-gassing so I’ve been looking for an excuse to get rid of it.

Many mattresses, for instance, are made from petroleum-based chemicals. Memory foam mattresses in particular, which are made with chemicals that releaseĀ volatile organic compounds (VOCs), can cause headaches, respiratory issues and skin irritation. Mattresses may also be treated with chemical fire retardants (Polybrominated Diphenyl Ethers or PDBEs), which also off-gas. These chemicals are so bad that fire departments across the country are trying to outlaw their use. According to a recent Boston Globe article, “Fire officials and environmental advocates, who have joined forces to support the restrictions, contend that at least 10 chemicals used in flame retardants endanger firefighters, while doing little to stop fires. They support two bills that would prohibit manufacturers and retailers from using the chemicals in childrenā€™s products and upholstered furniture and authorize state environmental officials to ban other retardants they designate as health risks.”

Knowing all this — and hoping to save our backs — we went out in search of an organic mattress like the one we bought our youngest daughter. (That blog post is worth reading if you want to learn more about chemicals in mattresses.) Anyway, organic mattresses are now easy to find and purchase. The local store we visited had about a dozen different models on display. We settled on a part latex, part coil mattress made of all organic materials. Before it was delivered, though, I had to figure out what to do with our old mattress. I didn’t want it to end up in a landfill.

As I learned after doing a little research, nearly every part of a mattress can be recycled — between 80 to 90 percent, according to the California Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery. That old memory foam and the mattress topper and cover can be reused as carpet padding or insulation. All the metal inside the mattress gets put right back into the stream since it can be recycled. Even the wood frame can be used as firewood. It’s sad that only a handful of states require mattress recycling. California is one such state. Every mattress purchased there includes a recycling fee that pays for the process when it outlives its usefulness.

Turns out there’s a mattress recycler right here on Long Island that services most of the Island and New York City. For a fee, the company would come pick up the old mattress and break it down into components that could be recycled and reused. The recycling process was easy. We signed up online, paid a nominal fee and someone came the next day to take it away. The knowledge that I helped the environment — plus the comfy new bed — has me sleeping better at night. Finally!

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